3 Lessons I Wish I Could Teach My Younger Self on College Graduation Day

The day I graduated from college, I had no idea what the rest of my life would look like. Some of my friends knew where they were going — to jobs in big cities or houses in the suburbs with their boyfriends — but I knew I wasn’t ready for either of those things. It was exciting, and it was terrifying.

Fast-forward eight years, though, and if I were to do it all over, there isn’t much I’d change. I’ve learned from my mistakes, and I wouldn’t trade in my experiences for anything. But there are still some things I would’ve liked to tell my younger self. Unfortunately, I don’t have a time machine, but hopefully these three lessons can provide some perspective, no matter where you are on your own journey.

1. Travel Far and Wide

Explore as much as you can. Don’t worry about new clothes or a fancy car; spend your money on plane tickets. You won’t regret it. After all, you might never again have the opportunity to travel as much as you do in your 20s. In addition to being fun and exhilarating, it’ll also be one of the most educational experiences of your life.

You’ll learn to tolerate people who are different from you. You’ll develop gratitude for what you have and patience for what you don’t. You’ll make friends on many continents. And perhaps most importantly, you’ll learn about yourself and your place in the world: your strengths, weaknesses, likes, and dislikes.

2. Respect Yourself

You may be young, but you deserve as much respect as anyone else on this planet — and that respect starts with you.

Don’t stay with significant others who don’t treat you right. Trust me: You’ll find one who does.

Don’t drink to fit in. If you want to stay sober one night, one week, or one year, do it. Your true friends love you regardless of whether you have a drink in your hand (plus, it’ll save you a ton of money!).

Don’t be afraid to ask for what you want. Though this applies to all areas of life, it especially holds true when it comes to jobs. Negotiate your pay when you’re getting hired, ask for a raise if you feel you deserve one, and don’t take on more work than you should.

3. Start Investing Now

I know, I know; I sound like a super-boring old person. But seriously, start investing now. Thanks to the power of compound interest, you only have to invest $25 per week to retire well. If you wait until you’re 30, you’ll need to invest three times as much, and you’ll still end up with less money.

The more you invest now, the less you’ll worry in the years to come. And when you think about it, $25 per week is nothing. It’s the equivalent of a tame night out at the bar or one meal with your friends. So create an automatic withdrawal out of your checking account, and start saving for the future.

Following my advice might take some extra effort, but don’t stress too much about the small stuff. The most important thing I’ve learned is that it’ll all work out in the end.

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